tv MSNBC News Live MSNBC June 28, 2010 3:00pm-4:00pm EDT
appointment to the highest court in the land. >> the end of the opening statements by the judiciary members. and today john kerry and scott brown will formally introduce elena kagan. and joining me now, democratic senator dianne feinstein just stepped out of the judiciary committee to join us here. i want to play for you a little bit of senator session's comments earlier, attacking the nominee where he raised the whole question of her tenure at harvard when she was dean of the law school, he said that she had actually been punishing the military and let's go to that tape if we have it ready, if not, i want to ask you about it on the other side. this is jeff sessions earlier today. >> during her time at dean and
h harvard, her actions punished the military and demeaned our soldiers as they were courageously fighti ining for o country in two wars overseas. i cannot take this issue lightly. and -- establishing procedures for determining who was an enemy combatant in the war on terror. she compared this legislation which passed 84-14 with the lawless actions of dictator ship. >> senator feinstein, do you want to respond to that? >> that's not what the facts reflect. in fact military recruiting was continued, albeit in a different way.
the reason for the difference was because of a court decision that had just come down, that questioned whether universities in fact could do this. she continued military recruitment, recruitment did not decline during her administration. as a matter of fact, it even increased slightly. so i think what was said is simply inaccurate. >> i want to also ask you about the supreme court ruling today, the 5-4 ruling on the chicago gun case, you came up through politics through the tragedy of harvey milk's assassination in san francisco and later when you were a mayor and so many gun tragedies in california that made you a passionate support ore weapons bans. >> first of all, i became mayor as a product of assassination, my predecessor was assassinated
with a handgun, i have been to many crime scenes, i have seen what guns can do. i had a youngster they mentored for years who found a gun on a street corner and played russian roulette with it and brew out his brains, so i know what guns can do. and i believe the court is making this country less safe rather than more safe. and that's been my belief, i have seen it carried out in fact and i see a court that has moved far to the right. and this is simply one of the decisions that has come down which essentially has thrown out 71 years of precedent in the miller case. first with the helder case, in washington, d.c. and the mcdonald case this morning in chicago. >> does this make elena kagan's nomination more complicated? does it raise the stakes at all politically as both sides look at the gun issue as well as
other issues and see this very close balance on the court? >> oh, i don't really think it does make her -- does not affect her per se. i think other things may, but this does not. she would not change the balance, she would just simply be replacing one of the four in what have been 5-4 decisions. >> the "new york times" which is not exactly a hostile newspaper to elaiena kagan, had an editorl today saying she had the least explicit legal record of nominee in a long time and she really has to be very specific in her answers. where do you think that balancing line comes in the way she handles her responses as we hear from her later today and tomorrow and the rest of the week? >> i suspect what the editorial meant was that she hasn't been an appellate court judge and in fact the entire court is comprised of appellate court
judges. that hasn't always been this way. chief justice rehnquist had no judicial experience, former governor warren had no judicial experience. others -- as a matter of fact 34% of the court historically has had no prior judicial experience. i think she brings actually a refreshing background to the court. as a dean, as solicitor general, as somebody that knows the law, has defended the law before the supreme court, one of the requirements for being solicitor general is that you be learned in the law. so i have no problem with that at all. i think it's an asset, actually. >> what is it about critics who suggest that to be an intellectual, to be a scholar is politically incorrect? it's a very interesting mix of criticism here today.
>> i agree. i think here's the problem, there's been a drift net out, let's find something to get elena kagan, and that's been -- i've been surprised at it. i was surprised at it with sotomayer too. so essentially the republican side has made up its mind that they want to find ways to oppose her. we did not do that with alito and the chief justice. we essentially listened to the facts, asked questions andi int made up our mind after that. i'm sorry to say, i think some minds are made up and they make them up not in her favor and not give her the opportunity. let's see if that's true or false. >> there was a suggestion earlier from jeff sessions in an interview this morning with george stephanoloupos on abc that he would not rule out a filibuster. what do you think about this hidden threat of the possibility of a filibuster which has not been used in recent years
certainly against a supreme court nominee. >> i think it's ridiculous, there's nothing about her that is filibusterable. we had more in disclosure with the chief justice of the court. there's no question about that and nothing has been found which would disqualify her. she has sterling representatives of government, of the law, of the academic community all supporting her. so i simply do not believe that this is going to happen, andrea. i think she's going to be confirmed and be confirmed with a substantial margin. >> and there's another confirmation hearing tomorrow for on the armed services committee of course for general petraeus, no one doubts that he will be confirmed, but you have expressed some concerns about the whole prospect of continuing with our current policy in
afghanistan. where do you think the senate is heading on afghanistan? >> i think this replace of general mcchrystal for general petraeus is a big move on the part of the president. i think this means that petraeus is now in charge. that should mean if petreaus can't work with people, i say replace them because you have to give petraeus the maximum opportunity to succeed and that's important. we're ten years into the war, there is some disillusionment in the halls of congress with this war. the president himself has set a timeline to make a transition toward withdrawal or to a drawdown of troops. that will be july of next year. so petraeus must succeed. therefore i believe all our eggs are in his basket, so to speak. >> and you believe he should
have the right to name his team, even if that includes replacing the ambassador, ambassador iken berger and anyone else? >> i do, because again this comes under very strange circumstances and if you want to give him the very best opportunity to succeed, if he has a problem, you have to side with him and solve that problem, i believe. >> senator diane finestein, thank you so much. we are waiting to hear from the nominee herself, supreme court nominee elena kagan, she's expected to make her case for the high court in just a few minutes. stay with us. plus we are watching tropical storm alex, the system is getting stronger as it eyes the u.s. details on its track plus other headlines coming up next. [ whistling ] [ dog barking ]
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we are awaiting an opening statement from supreme court nominee elena kagan in today's supreme court nominee hearing. word just in that dick cheney, the former vice president has left the hospital, his office says that he has markedly improved since being admitted friday with a fluid buildup related to his heart disease. i believe those are file pictures. we'll check on that. in the gulf, bp continues oil cleanup operations hooking up a third vessel. alex is not expected to hit the spill site itself when it makes landfall later this week. today hurricane watches have been issued for texas and mexico. the new u.s. commander in afghanistan, general david petraeus gets ready to defend the u.s. war plan. tomorrow the general testifies before a senate armed services committee. and flags are at half staff
on capitol hill throughout the country. in honor of west virginia senator robert byrd. senator birth dyrd died at the 92, casted more than 18,000 votes, he is being remembered today by those who worked with him for so many years. vice president biden and senator majority leader harry reid. >> we lost the dean of the united states senate, but also the state of west virginia lost its most fierce advocate and as i said i lost a dear friend. he never lost site of the home. there's a guy that never, never took his eye off his beloved mountain state. >> the senate family grieves today with the byrd family over one of the most devoted men over to serve his state and congress,
one of the most distinguished members ever to serve in the united states senate. >> and daniel inoway will begin the new senator pro tem in the senate, making him third in line in succession to the presidency. elena kagan's confirmation hearings continue. plus we'll get the latest on the oil disaster in the gulf and what a strengthening tropical storm may pose to residents there. and when they're laughing... you're laughing. be kind to your eyes... with transitions lenses. transitions adapt to changing light so you see your whole day comfortably... and conveniently while protecting your eyes from the sun. ask your eyecare professional which transitions lenses are right for you.
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and right now, at the elena kagan hearings, we're finding the opening statements from ted coughlin, and then elena kagan will be making her own statement after sitting for so many hours listening to both praise and a considerable amount of abuse. let's bring in democratic strategist karen finney and
susan molinary on the set. jeff sessions laid out a really tough brief against her and she took it like a soldier, which is, pun intended. >> she has been very straight faced, even when people are saying nice things about her, she has been very stoic. >> but that's pretty tough going. >> it's tough going, let me just say as someone who had to run every two years and had to put up with a lot of reviews, she's just sitting there saying a couple of more days to get through this and then never again in my life so i just have to suck it up. let me paraphrase from you, we are entering midterm elections and a lot of this has to do with staking out the differences between republicans and democrats and president obama and where republican leadership would take this country.
this is about the solicitor general and this is also about republican priorities and democratic priorities. while they are being tough, they are being respectful, they are laying out very important issues and very important questions they're going to ask tomorrow, but this is what needs to be done with a person who's going to be around for a very long time. >> as a new yorker, there does seem to be an attempt to stereotype new yorkers, the upper west side of new york in particular. what tease code there? >> i think the code is liberal. as a new yorker and as a female, i'm grateful to the president when he nominates someone from new york and who is female. she's obviously going to tilt the cart a little more to the right. but i think the code is that despite there are some liberals with some issues, that upper
west side manhattan, they don't really understand the heartland of the country is sort of the code that's going on there, and some of the reflections of the things that he did when he was at harvard are going to be called into question in a very tough manner tomorrow. >> i don't even know if you're originally from new york -- >> i was born there, yeah. >> where were you born? >> roosevelt hospital and the upper west side when i was a little kid was very different than it is today, had a very different reputation than it does today. sure, there is a lot of code language that we're going to be hearing over the next couple of days, you can't overestimate the political context, this is all about both sides trying to lay out their frame. and traditionally what would you would see in between the nominations and the start of the hearings, you kind of would see them doing that. but we have had so much other news, that this is the first time we're hearing both sides lay out those arguments.
not surprising that the republicans are going to try to make an issue of that experience. what i do find surprising and hypocritical, is that when we were talking about justice roberts, the lack of a paper trail, some of the same republicans were defending that as not a relevant argument. and they were defending a lack of a paper trail. so it will be interesting to see how we flip that back in her favor. >> and we heard from the white house counsel's office, and justice roberts worked in the white house counsel as well. >> when they pull out different pieces and say, you know, this is a reason to vote against her, or this is a concern, again, we need to be asking the question, well, what's the double standard here, why is it a concern for justice elena kagan and it wasn't for justice roberts? >> i think experience lays the predicate for some of the other hits they're going to take. for example, her discussions on the 2007 immigration law in
arizona, what she did in her regard, i think the underpinning is there's no experience and then you make these bad decisions, are you up for the task? >> this is a woman who's seen to be pretty much in the main stream, but also, she is someone who's been hailed frankly from both sides of the isle, both republicans and democrats. >> it should be interesting to see how she navigates that tomorrow and the next day in those questions. >> and i have to confess that i was born in manhattan. so three new york women in the same place. and while we wait for the conclusion of the opening statements of the hearing, we'll take a break and we'll come back and expect to shortly hear from elena kagan, the nominee to the supreme court. , you can find the experts you need, whether you're trying to sell of hoping to buy. nobody sells more real estate than re/max.
hearing, and we expect her to be speaking within the next hour. senator spector, i don't anyone has had more experience handling confirmation hearings going back to bork and clarence thomas, you raised a number of questions for this nominee. what are your biggest concerns? >> my biggest concerns are the cases which the supreme court is not deciding. i'm concerned about respect for congressional fact-finding, which chief justice roberts and justice alito said that they would uphold and they did not and citizens united where corporations can engage in political advertising. and i'm concerned about sticking with precedents, again, where commitments were made not to jolt a system and be modest and there was a u turn on that.
but i intend to take up an aspect which is not often focused on, but is very important, and that is the cases the supreme court does not decide. for example, they did not decide the federal surveillance program with warrantless wiretapping and i'm looking for a commitment from solicitor general kagan that the hearings have been a farce and senators ought to push nominees to answer questions and i intend to follow her advice. >> senator sessions earlier today, republican senator, of course the ranking member on the republican side questioned her support for what he called activist judges. let me play a little bit of that for you and ask you about it. >> ms. kagan has associated herself with well known activist judges who have used their power to redefine the constitution and
laws in ways that not surprisingly have advanced that judges social policies and agendas. >> we're told by others on the committee that he's basically talking about judge and never mickfoe, one of her mentors and supreme court justice thurgood marshall. can you give us a response that. >> you have activism regrettably on both sides. you have had very voluminous congressional hearings and fact-finding and then the supreme court of the united states with the five-block conservatives have said we wanted to be congruent and proportionate, a definition they picked out of the air in the 1996 burny case. that's about as activist as you can be. when senator sessions points out that people who have been
activists that solicitor general kagan likes, it's gone on on both sides. and we hear platitudes and we hear commitments from nominees and we get on the court and they decry activist and they we will accept congressional fact-finding and then they go to the supreme court chambers and do exactly the opposite. so senator sessions ought to look for some of the people he admires and endorses. >> there's been quite a passing, of course, with robert byrd and with his passage, the most senior member, the person who had served the longest on capitol hill of anyone in american history, we have seen quite a change, it's been noted that on election day 2008, there were six senators who had more than 35 years of experience in the senate. now with the loss of senator byrd, there's only one. now when you leave the senate, after this session, after this year, there will be so many
fewer number of fewer members who have had, you had more than 30 years experience, is there a generational change that we're seeing going on in the united states senate? >> i think so, andrea. it happens every generation, and new people are elected and new ideas come to the fore. >> how do you think the senate is changing as a result of that? >> i don't think it's a generational change, what has happened is that i spoke about senator byrd on the floor of the senate a few minutes ago. the kind of gridlock we have, senator byrd came in on a whole -- he came in in a wheel
chair and his head was drooping but he was there to make the 60th vote. filibusters tying up the senate for a long period of time and then the nominees coming up and it's 99-0. so that the real change in the senate, in the course of the past really since the shoe was on the other foot, when democrats were filibustering bush nominees for the bench in 2005, so it's -- nothing is happening in the senate, we're having a lot of people who are unemployed or are not getting unemployment compensation, or are searching for jobs, 10% unemployed in this country and we're just not moving. >> the other thing i wanted to ask you about, is there was a landmark supreme court decision today, a 5-4 decision, the gun case in chicago and you were a legendary prosecutor in your days in pennsylvania. as a prosecutor, what do you think the impact is, especially in the urban areas, or do you think it will still be litigated as both sides argue about the
practical application of gun restrictions. >> it's an activist decision, talking about activism, to extend it from the federal government to all the states, through the due process clause of the 14th amendment. andrea, i believe that the answer to violent crime really lies in a number of directions. one is tough sentences for tough criminals to get the criminals off the streets, and realistic rehabilitation and job training and the prevention of crime. i have been pushing very hard on mentoring, so that we take under the wing some of these young people who are -- i think that when the president spoke about the need to deal with the underlying causes of crime, the new da. in philadelphia, says in the arrest of 75,000 young
people, the one thing they have in common is they didn't garage wail wait from high school, so the gun control turns out to be palliative. >> i'm going to interrupt you because senators kerry and brown are about to enter deuintroduce elaiena kagan as supreme court nominee. >> most respected forces on national security, international affairs and chairs the pre s ts prestigious foreign relations committee. senator kerry, you have the floor. >> thank you so much, chairman leahy, for those kind words of introducti introduction, ranking member sessions and to all my colleagues on the important judiciary committee at this
important moment. members of the committee, mr. chairman, 16 years ago i had the privilege to introduce stephen brier to this committee. and with the loss today of senator byrd, i'm particularly reminded of senator kennedy sitting beside me that day. as you all know, there isn't anybody senator kennedy served on this committee for 46 years. and i know the pride he would feel seeing elena kagan nomin e nominated for the supreme court of the united states. when ted introduced then judge brier, he quoted oliver wendell holmes that every calling is great when greatly pursued. those words applied to stephen brier and i can share with you my complete and total confidence that they apply equally to the solicitor general elena kagan. massachusetts is proud, mr.
chairman, of elena kagan's accomplishments and we believe that through these hearings as each of you get to know her as we do, she will earn broad, bipartisan support, just as she did when she was nominated as solicitor general. by now, every one of us has heard many times repeated and you know well the high points of her record, a trail blazing pace, culminating in her selection as the first woman to serve as the dean of harvard law school and the first woman to serve as solicitor general. if confirmed, she will make history once again. in an america where women comprise more than half the population, she will join justices ginsberg and sotomayer for the first time in our history, a full third of the united states supreme court will be women. but there's much more that distinguishes elena. her life has really been characterized by her passion for public service and her awareness
of what it means to be a good citizen. elena interviewed at a big law firm in new york, meeting with a young partner, with with no family to support was pulling in close to a million dollars a year. so elena asked him, what do you do with all that money? and he replied, i buy art. elena just shook her head. in the conviction that there really were better ways to expend her life's work and she continued to pursue efforts to more directly impact the lives of those around her. her skills and intellect very quickly came to the attention of the clinton white house. which is when i first got to know her. i had been asked by the chairman of the commerce committee, senator holings, our old friend, to help break through a stalemate of the by partisan
bill. elena became the administration's point person. when we started out, no one gave us any hope of being close to or getting close to passage. but elena camped out in the vice president's office off the senate floor, shuttling back and forth to the white house. she worked day and night, equally with both sides of the aisle, working every angle, thinking through every single approach. and on the eve of the commerce committee's markup, things appeared to be falling apart, something we're all too familiar with here. but elena simply wasn't going to let that happen. that was an unacceptable outcome, she got together with the republican senators and staff and she listened carefully and she helped all of us to meet the last minute objections. it was classic elena, she saw a path forward where most people saw nothing but deadlock and it led to a 19-1 vote to pass the
bill out of committee. a mark of bipartisanship, consensco consensus building that few believed was possible. that's what i believe elena kagan will bring to the court. she was tough and tenacious in argument when it was necessary and she had a knack for winning people over and helping people see both sides of an argument. elena would be the one to have a new idea, a fresh approach. it was a tutorial in consensus building by someone for whom it was pure instinct and it won elaiena respect from republican and democrats alike.
elena is actually in this day anding age and in this moment of the court probably an enormous asset. frankly, i think it's a critical component of what makes her a terrific choice. someone who really understands how laws are created and the real world effects of limitation. it's a reminder that some of the greatest justices in our history were not judges before they sat on the court. among those names like frankfurter and brandice. she brought the same knack for consensus building to harvard lawsuit. there she was affectionately acknowledged and she transformed it again into a kcohesive
institution. chair of the congressional panel currently overseeing our economic relief efforts says simply, she changed morale around here. charles freed, the former solicitor general says of her prospects as a justice of the supreme court, quote, i think elena would be terrific, because frankly the court is stuck. the great thing about elena is there's a freshness about her that promises some possibility of getting away from the formulas that are wheeled out today on both sides. i have no reservations about her whatsoever. john manning, the first hire under kagan's dean ship, a conservative and an expert on textualism and separation of powers, says i think one of the
things kagan was that she tried to hire people with different ideological perspectives, she was equally as strong in her praise for scalia as she was in her praise for brier. she celebrated both. it's a good predictor of how she'll be as a judge, she'll be fair and impartial, a judge that would carefully consider a briefing and argument in every case. the sort of judge i would want if i didn't know which side of the case i was arguing. so in closing, my colleagues, i'm glad that in these next days you're going to get a chance to know elena as so many of us have in massachusetts, the way she thinks, her approach to the law, an extremely dedicated public servant and i assure you deeply committed to the values we all share as americans. i always remember what justice potter stewart said about what
makes a first rate judge, he said, the mark of a good judge is a judge whose opinion you can read and have no idea that the judge was a man or a woman, republican or democrat, a christian or a jew, you just know he or she was a good judge. i believe that elena kagan will meet that sta standard and i have every confidence she'll be an outstanding justice of the supreme court in every sense of the word of the thank you for allowing me to introduce this superb nominee. >> senator brown is elected this january as one of the most beloved senators, ted kennedy, who was actually the longest serving of either party on the senate judiciary committee in the history of the senate. senator brown serves on the senate committee armed services, the committee on veterans
affairs and the homeland security and governmental affairs committee. prior to his election to u.s. senate, senator brown served in the massachusetts state senate, where he advocated for childrens' and victims rights and he's a 30-year member of the army national guard, is that correct? he was awarded the army commendation medal former meritorious service. and i know from the conversation i had with you at the end of last week that you had to move a number of things around to get here this afternoon and i want you to know the committee appreciates that and please go ahead senator brown. >> thank you, mr. chairman, the thanks is to you for accommodating senator kerry and i and adjusting your schedules, it means a lot to senator kerry to make a presentation to you
and the ranking member session and the members of the committee and i'm pleased to join a long standing tradition of introducing elena kagan to the committee. i would like to extend my -- and although i only served briefly with senator byrd, i was well aware of his deep and long standing commitment to the senate and what it stood for and he represented the people of west virginia with great class and dignity. and i also am saddened to hear of the passing of martin ginsburg. i wish to congratulate ms. kagan for her nomination and it is an honor to introduce her today. i had the pleasure of meeting her last month and i found her to be an impressive and pleasant individual. i indicated then and i look
forward to attending this committee's hearings to learn more about her record, her philosophy and her qualifications. as an attorney myself, i recognized an impressive legal resume when i see one and it's no doubt that ms. kagan has gone far since graduating from cambridge law school. she ended the private legal practice at the prestige you washington, d.c. law firm before joining the university of chicago school where she earned tenure in 1995. from '95 to '99 she served the clinton administration first as an associate white house counsel and then in her position as the dmik domestic why is counsel. where she would become later
dean at harvard law school. and while at harvard, her article of presidential administration was named the year's top scholarly article. president obama nominated ms. kagan to be solicitor general on january 5, 2009. and i'm very proud that our nation's first female solicitor general as such deep roots in massachusetts and if confirmed she would be the third woman on the supreme court. she frequently respects the united states before the supreme court and she's articled several high profile cases before the court and was recently victorious in the holder versus humanitarian law case which held is that congress's prohibition of material support and resources to foreign terrorist organizations is constitutional. she's undoubtedly a brilliant woman who's served her country
in a variety of capacities and has made some significant contributions to massachusetts and i certainly thank her for that. and the members of this committee is about to embark on one of the most serious duties that the senate is constitutionally tasked with. vetting the qualifications, temperament and philosophy of a lifetime appointment, something that is very, very serious and very important and i look forward to ms. kagan's responses to the community's questions and i know that i have some of my own and am quite sure my colleagues here today go as well. our constitutional duty of advice and consent is imperative and should not be taken lightly and i plan not to take it lightly as well. in closing, i look forward to a thorough and fair examination of ms. miss kagan's record. i want to thank you, mr. chairman, for adjusting your
schedule to allow senator kerry and i to come before you. >> thank you very much. i thank you both for being here. i appreciate that. and the staff will reset the table. and if we could invite miss kagan back -- >> joining us now, "newsweek's" jonathan alder and author of "the promise: president obama year one." you talked to the president and the whole team about looking forward to a supreme court nomination and went through a previous one as your part of writing the book. what qualities do you think made them choose kagan, and what prospects do you think after watching this hearing so far does she have for confirmation? >> you know, kagan was very much inside the family, so to speak. she knew many of the players from her experience in the
clinton administration. so she was friends with people advising the president on who to choose. she's a prodige. -- >> let's listen for just a moment as she's taking the oath. >> so help you god -- >> i do. >> thank you. please be seated. sister general kagan, i know you have an opening statement, and i wi now the floor is yours. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman, and members of the committee. i would like to thank senators kaerry and brown for the generous introductions. i also want to thank the president kwen for nominating me to the position. i'm honored and humbled by his
confidence. let me also thank all the members of the committee as well as many other senators for meeting with me with in the last several weeks. i discovered they call these courtesy visits for a reason. each of you has been unfailingly gracious and considerate. i know we gather hee re on a da of sorrow for all of you with the passing of senator byrd. i did not know him personally as all of you did, but i certainly knew of his great love for this institution, his faithful service to the people of his state, and his abiding reverence for our constitution. a copy of which he carried with him every day. a moving reminder to each of us who serves in government of the i deals we must seek to fulfill.
all of you and all of senator byrd's family and friends are in my thoughts and prayers at this time. i would like to begin by thanking my friends, family and student who is are here with me today. i thank them for all the support they've given me during this process and throughout my life. it's really wonderful to have so many of them behind me. i said when the president nominated me that the two people missing were my parents. i feel that deeply again today. my father was as generous and as public spirited a person as i've ever known. and my mother set the standard for determination, courage and commitment to learning. my parents lived the american
dream. they grew up in immigrant communities. my mother didn't speak a word of english until she went to school. but she became a legendary teacher, and my father a valued lawyer. and they taught me and my two brothers, both high school teachers, that this is the greatest of all countries because of the freedoms and opportunities it offers its people. i know they would have felt that today, and i pray they would have been proud of what they did in raising me and my brothers. to be nominated to the supreme court is the honor of a lifetime. i'm only sorry that if confirmed i won't have the privilege of serving there with justice john paul stevens. his integrity, humility and
independence, his deep devotion to the court and his profound commitments to the rule of law. all these qualities are models for everyone who wears or hopes to wear a judge's robe. if given this honor, i hope i will approach each case with his trademark care and consideration, that means listening to each party with a mind as open as his to learning and persuasion and striving as conscientiously as he has to render impartial justice. i owe a debt of gratitude to two other living justices. sandra day o'connor and ruth bader ginsburg paved the way for me and so many other women in my generation. they have created boundless
opportunities for women in the law. i thank them for their inspiration and also for the personal kindnesses they have shown me. and my heart goes out to justice ginsburg and her family today. everybody who met marty ginsburg was enriched by his incredible warmth and humor and generosity, and i'm deeply saddened by his passing. mr. chairman, from law school i had the good fortune to lead as a kind of motto spoken each year at graduation. we tell the new graduates they are ready to enter a profession devoted to those restraints that make us free. that phrase has always captured for me the way law and the rule of law matters. what the rule of law does is nothing less than to secure for
each of us what our institution calls the blessings and liberty. those rights and freedom. that promise of equality that have defined this nation since its founding, and what the supreme court does is to safeguard the rule of law. through a commitment to even handedness, principle, and restraint. my first real exposure to the court came almost a quarter century good when i began with justice marshall. he revered the court, and for a simple reason. in his life, in his great struggle for racial justice the supreme court stood as the part of government that was most open to every american. and that most often fulfilled
our constitution's promise of treating all persons with equal respect, equal care, and equal attention. the idea is engraved on the very face of the supreme court buildi building. equal justice under law. it means that everyone who comes before the court. regardless of wealth or power or station receives the same process and the same protections. what this commands of judges is even handedness and impartiality. what it promises is nothing less than a fair shake for every american. i've seen that promise up close during my tenure as solicitor general. in that job i serve as our
government's chief lawyer before the supreme court, arguing cases on issues ranging from campaign finance to criminal law and national security. and i do mean argue. in no other place i know is the strength of a person so tested and a quality of a person's analysis so deeply probed. no matter who the lawyer or who the client the court rerentlessly hones in on the merits of every claim and every precedent. i always come away from my arguments at the court with a renewed appreciation of the commitment of each justice to reason and principle. a commitment that defined what it means to live in a nation under law.